Town’s three in-a-row bid set to clash with Bann’s drive for five in men’s IHL final

Men’s Irish Hockey League, semi-finals
Banbridge 2 (M Bell 2) Pembroke 1 (H Spain)

Matthew Bell won the battle of the corners as he shot home two drag-flicks to see Banbridge beat Pembroke 2-1 and keep alive their incredible drive for five titles.

Bell’s low slung flick in the 14th minute put Bann in front from the third penalty corner as they had the best of the opening exchanges but Pembroke produced a fine 20-minute spell to have the ascendancy either side of half-time.

Banbridge's Matthew Bell celebrates his winning goal. Pic: Adrian Boehm

Banbridge’s Matthew Bell celebrates his winning goal. Pic: Adrian Boehm

Justin Sherriff’s powerful runs were causing damage while Gareth Lennox was required to keep out one big double chance at close quarters to maintain the lead.

Pembroke’s equaliser did come just before three-quarter time via Harry Spain with a carbon-copy of Bell’s first goal, hitting the bottom right corner with a lot of power.

But Bann steadied their nerves and pushed on in the final quarter, winning another penalty corner. This time, Bell went high to find the net and land the result.

Three Rock Rovers 4 (J Brennan 2, G Ringwood, A Haughton) Monkstown 4 (G Watkins 3, R Sykes), Monkstown win 4-2 in a shoot-out
Monkstown’s bid for three IHL titles in a row survived a huge scare as Gareth Watkins struck twice in the 63rd minute to salvage a 4-4 draw against Three Rock Rovers before eventually prevailing in a shoot-out.

They were trailing 4-2 deep into the closing quarter before a stunning double saw them turn the tide. Town subsequently scored all four of their shoot-outs, teenager Jazze Henry scoring the pivotal one, while Rovers missed twice to send the sky-blues through.

Earlier on, Three Rock got off to a flying start as Jonny Bruton weighted a great pass through to Garry Ringwood who was through one-on-one. He applied a delicious chipped finish over the sliding David Fitzgerald to make it 1-0 in the fifth minute.

Monkstown, though, swapped the lead by the break as Richard Sykes shot home on his backhand after his initial drag was miscued. Watkins then made it 2-1 with a lovely finish after his first up shot was well stopped by Stephen West.

Jody Hosking tries to get away from Lee Cole. Pic: Adrian Boehm

Jody Hosking tries to get away from Lee Cole. Pic: Adrian Boehm

Ali Haughton equalised within moments of the start of the second half, finishing off a baseline move. And two Joe Brennan penalty strokes pushed them into a great position at 4-2 going into the final quarter, converting after Mitch Darling and Luke Madeley had shots stopped on the line by defender’s bodies.

Monkstown, though, fought back with two inside the 63rd minute. The first was from the penalty spot before he applied another beautiful lobbed finish to make it 4-4, both when Rovers were down to ten men.

A flurry of late yellow cards meant normal time ended in feisty fashion but no goals accrued, leading to silver goal extra-time.

Monkstown had a couple of corners on the final hooter but were unable to get a shot past the number one runner, sending the game to a shoot-out.

There, Monkstown completed the perfect set of four which Rovers could not match, putting them through to the final once again. They do so safe in the knowledge that they and Banbridge have qualified for European berths for the 2015/16 by virtue of their results.

Final (Sunday): Banbridge vs Monkstown, 4pm, Grange Road

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